Give the Devil His Due
As part of the deal, the devil also demanded and received more cash.
Merkel caved in for political expediency. In the process, senior EU diplomats accused the chancellor of backstabbing. Others described Merkel’s methods “brutal”.
In the end, political expediency won out over common sense. It always does.
Devil Cheers Loudly
Despite the fact that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a de-facto dictator who just took over Turkey’s largest newspaper with a violent teargas raid by riot police, Merkel was anxious for a deal with Erdogan and got one.
As Turkish negotiators left for Brussels on Monday to hammer out a deal over the stream of refugees arriving in Europe via Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan instructed them to come back with hard cash.
Led by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, they not only negotiated a doubling to €6bn of the sum the EU would pay to Turkey to cover the costs of hosting 2.7m refugees, they also secured potentially more valuable concessions, including early approval for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens into the EU’s Schengen zone and revisiting access to European markets.
Earlier threats by Mr Erdogan to start busing refugees to Greece, his private belittling of EU officials and a series of last-minute demands were not enough to outweigh the need for a deal.
Merkel’s Big Gamble
For a politician renowned for the caution and the scientific precision she brings to every policy debate, it was an uncharacteristic gamble.
Behind the backs of some her closest European allies, Angela Merkel, German chancellor, struck a deal with her Turkish counterpart that could very well end the influx of refugees washing up on Europe’s shores — but at a very high price, including an extra €3bn in aid and a visa-free travel scheme.
There are already signs that her new swashbuckling style has its costs. EU diplomats have been left bruised and angered by being cut out of her bilateral dealmaking and risk turning on her when the deal goes before another summit next week for final approval.
Some senior officials say the disorderly process belies a potentially transformative outcome. Others are more downcast. “This was one of the lowest points of my time in the EU, an indictment of the way we operate and the way we act,” said one EU ambassador.
Her own political allies at home on Tuesday hinted at rebellion over the Turkey pact.
It started with a normal, even promising EU process. On Sunday afternoon EU ambassadors in Brussels put the final touches to a summit deal that Donald Tusk, European Council president, saw as a turning point. The western Balkan migration route would be closing and Turkey had agreed to take back non-Syrian migrants. Europe’s tougher approach was taking shape.
A few hours later, and a kilometre down the road, Ms Merkel met Ahmet Davutoglu and Mark Rutte, her Turkish and Dutch counterparts, and blew that deal apart.
One senior European diplomat directly involved in Turkey discussions said they had “never seen a situation where the EU institutions were so undermined and stabbed in the back”.
“The Germans are in a complete state of panic and disarray,” he said.
Another eurozone diplomat called her methods “brutal”.
It was “a unilateral, unco-operative approach and there will be a price for this one day”, the diplomat said.
For weeks, Mr Tusk has been pushing an Austria-backed plan to “close” the western Balkan route, a scheme that centred on sealing Greece’s border with Macedonia and convincing countries to the north to stop “waving through” economic migrants.
Ms Merkel had fought the plan, largely for symbolic reasons: she has resisted domestic pressure to cap migrant arrivals and has been engaged in a bitter political war with Werner Faymann, the Austrian chancellor who has repeatedly suggested Ms Merkel would follow his lead.
By shutting down the ability of migrants to move north, Mr Tusk’s allies believe they closed the window on Ankara’s ability to negotiate — if refugees were stuck in Greece, Turkey’s importance would dissipate.
Although Ms Merkel bristled at Mr Tusk’s rhetoric about closing the corridor, it may end up being her salvation — particularly if the Turkey deal collapses. As much as the sealing of borders to the south has offended her principles, it has also begun to stem the influx into southern Germany. That, in the end, is what the embattled chancellor needs.
Need for Political Expediency
A rising anti-immigrant party has registered a strong result in Germany’s municipal elections, just a week before crucial state polls.
The Alternative for Germany (AFD), a right-wing group whose growth is being watched with increasing alarm by center-right Chancellor Angela Merkel and the rest of Germany’s political establishment, placed third in a round of elections in the central German state of Hesse at the weekend.
Preliminary results, which will be formally confirmed later in the week, put the AFD at 13.2 percent, Deutsche Welle reported, making it the third-largest party.
Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) narrowly placed first with 28.2 percent, ahead of the Social Democrats (SPD) at 28 percent. The CDU result was a slump from its 33.7 percent score in 2011, while the Greens collapsed from 18.3 percent in 2011 to 11.6 percent, according to Die Welt.
The result is notable because it comes a week ahead of elections to the state legislatures of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saxony-Anhalt scheduled for March 13. Those elections will be seen as a key test of Merkel’s chancellorship.
The AFD’s swift rise has likely been driven by the ongoing migration crisis, which saw over a million refugees arrive in Germany in 2015. Charismatic leader Frauke Petry has shifted the party away from its purely euroskeptic roots towards a stance which captures popular disaffection with mass immigration. Merkel, by contrast, has taken heavy flak for her liberal stance toward migrants and refugees.
The AFD is polling at 19 percent in Saxony-Anhalt, 13 percent in Baden-Württemberg and 9 percent in Rhineland-Palatinate. In all three states it needs only 5 percent to obtain parliamentary representation.
Can the Deal with the Devil Work?
In the end, the plan is doomed. Although one floodgate may soon be closed (or not), an even bigger one will soon be open.
When it comes to Merkel, the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock